Who would have thunk this one?
A US Open Men’s Final between Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic? With both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer going out on the same day?
Wow! Just Wow!
Furthermore, you have to wonder if this chain of events marks the decline of the Big 4 era in tennis, where the courts were ruled by Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
You have to go back to 2005 when Marat Safin took out Lleyton Hewett in the Australian Open to find a Grand Slam Final without a member of the Big 4.
And you need to go back to 2003 when Andy Roddick won his only Slam to find no Big 4 members playing on the last day in Flushing.
” I think it’s exciting for the game, you know, to have different faces from time to time,” Federer said after his loss. “At the same time, I think people still enjoy seeing the guys they have seen for a while or often in the big matches. But I think it’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia and big for Japan I guess on some level, especially on sporting terms and tennis terms. Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there because they have put in the work and they hoped for the break, and this is it for both of them. I hope they can play a good final.”
The folks at CBS are probably not happy, since there are no Americans or household names in the finals. And unless you are a huge tennis fan, you probably won’t have the same interest.
However, this may be good for the sport. As much as tennis thrived, especially in Europe, with the Big 4 headlining and everyone else getting union scale, there is always room for change.
The sport needs new stars to come up through the rankings. With Federer clearly on the backside of his career, Nadal’s injuries, and Murray’s decline, it leaves Djokovic as the only member of the group on at the top of his game and he is going through changes in his personal life with marriage and a baby on the way.
Simply put the field has caught up to the varsity here. And it’s good to see others at the top. It’s good for tennis in general and interest in the sport in other parts of the work.
With Michael Change in his corner Nishkori looks like the next up and coming star in the sport.
“This is definitely huge for Japan,” Djokovic said. “It’s a big country. Over a hundred million people. This can definitely be a great encouragement for tennis in that country. He’s been around for last couple of years. He’s been making a lot of success. But playing finals of a Grand Slam and now fighting for title is definitely something different. You know, he has gotten to another level, and I’m sure that people will praise him.”
And Cilic, who dropped bombs on Federer out there has brought himself up to the top of the game.
” I just think he was quite erratic before,” Federer said. “You know, especially from the baseline. I think in some ways his game has little margin, I find, because he takes the ball early. If he doesn’t feel well on the half volleys it’s tough for him. But I feel like he’s cleaned up his return game to some degree. I think he’s serving much more consistent throughout an entire match and entire tournament; whereas before he could have a good day, bad day, good set, bad set. I think his mental approach has been one of always a true professional, always super fair play on the court. Always well-behaved. Always a guy I kind of liked watching play.”
So there you have it, a reason to watch on Monday. Too bad the American men’s varsity isn’t up to par, but maybe someday it will return.
In the meantime, a page may have turned and now let’s enjoy the next chapter of tennis’s book.